I have often wondered what it would be like to live in a photo collage. Luckily, with one wall being home to a cluster of retro photography and another with gilded millers, I had the opportunity to do so when I dined at Animal Orchestra recently, whilst getting a good look at the reflection of the back of my head.
Animal Orchestra sits quietly along Grattan Street. So quietly in fact that it kind of looks like someone’s house. If it weren’t for the blackboard menus and tiny window stickers proclaiming they accept visa and MasterCard (with a .50c charge, mind you), I would have knocked on their door and asked for a cup of sugar rather than the baked eggs with sardines and feta I ended up ordering.
There are seven types of baked eggs on the menu here. Obviously a delicacy in these parts of town? You can get baked eggs with tomatoes, chorizo, potato, black pudding…you can get them any old how (except with beer – I checked). My selection with sardines stems from my childhood when I used to steal food off my dad’s plate and one day he had sardines on toast with tomato sauce. To this day this dish remains one of my favourites regardless of the stench, and I regularly wheel this breakfast dish out at work to ensure everyone knows I’m around.
And I wish I could say the same about my baked eggs option at Animal Orchestra.
I waited patiently for my dish to arrive in probably the coldest cafe I have ever experienced. If I had known the folk at Animal Orchestra were so adverse to using heaters I totes would have visited on one of the warmer mornings Melbourne offers on the odd occasion (also known as never). But because no other reviews mention tid bits like this I didn’t know. Annoying.
It was also the quietest place ever, with not a whisper of background music on offer. Coldest and quietest. Winning so far.
I ordered a coffee from a friendly waiter dude and it arrived swiftly. It was cold (so cold the sugar didn’t melt), and that kind of annoyed me seeing as I was counting on this to warm my now temperature-paralysed hands. However, if it wasn’t cold it would have been one of the best coffees I have had in a while. Shame, but for now let’s blame the temperature of the coffee on the temperature of the room and argue that on any other day the coffee here will be excellent. Plus the sugar bowls are different on each table. Win.
While sipping my cold coffee, I paid my respects to some of the entertainment industry heroes that were plastered along the wall. Those who sit along this wall are privvy to some incredible photography, and also to quite a bit of full frontal nudity.
My eggs arrived and I squealed with joy when they came served in the pan they were cooked in. So rustic! So Tuscan! So effing dangerous for stupid people like me who, when told ‘the pan is hot, so be careful’, intentionally grab said pan to find out just how hot it is.
There was no salt or pepper on the table (or on a table nearby), so I asked another one of the super friendly wait staff to grab me some. This dish needs both salt and pepper, which is probably not the most positive intro to a review on food, but here it goes…
I’ve had baked eggs before, and although they have been Greek baked eggs, I still expedcted that baked eggs were the whole egg cracked into a ramekin and then baked. Not eggs scrambled and then baked. I was surprised to see that this was scramble poured over sardines and feta. The sardines were very, very potent. I know that as soon as you cook fish its smell strengthens, but still. This was tough going. The eggs were overcooked and the feta didn’t seem fresh. I was pleasantly surprised at how good feta went with sardines though, and it’s something I am going to add to my ‘sardines on toast’ repertoire.
The whole thing lacked flavour, and that truly disappointed me. I also think that perhaps if the eggs were poached or even fried this dish would be fantastic. The fact that there was no yolk to ooze over the fish was disappointing, and although I realise baked eggs were never going to ooze, I guess I was hoping they wouldn’t be overlooked to the point of rubbery.
As I was packing up to leave music started quietly playing. It was The Cure, which made me happy and subsequently won Animal Orchestra an additional half star. All in all, lovely atmosphere, and hopefully the breakfast menu extends a little further in the future to allow for oozie eggs.